At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.
A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.
Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.
The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."
One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”
By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Vintage Guitars Info
Vintage Guitar and Bass
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: 12 String Guitars
Source: Google News
Jointpop: T&T's Rock N Roll HeroesTrinidad Guardian, May 28th
an acoustic passage between electric romps—Hector's ringing 12-string guitar channelling The Beatles-inspired harmonies on Down to Me was a highlight—and the deliberate juxtaposition of Not For Sale preceding $oul$ Going Cheap to represent two ...Read more
Paul Orwell - 'You're Nothing Special'Clash Magazine, May 28th
Opening with swampy Hammond organ chords, the track suddenly splits into a searing 12 string guitar riff and Orwell's sneering vocals. The accompany visuals have a 60s theme, echoing classic Swinging 60s flick 'Blow Up'. As the vocal intones "you're ...Read more
Summer in the Studio series opening, features up-and-coming musiciansHollandSentinel.com, May 27th
The St. Louis Riverfront Times calls Jacobs' 12-string guitar playing a “mesmerizing style,” and Livingston Taylor says Jacobs “does everything to that guitar but give it an herbal massage.” Jacobs has been covering diverse music such as gypsy, folk...Read more
Video: Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, Sharon Van Etten and more sing the ...NewsOK.com, May 26th
Legend has it that she left her husband behind in Oklahoma but had her banjo and 12-string guitar in tow when she arrived on Greenwich Village's burgeoning folk scene. While Guthrie has become an Oklahoma icon, Dalton is more of an Oklahoma enigma...Read more
James Blackshaw: Best Hand ForwardPremier Guitar, May 25th
By the time he released his second album, 2004's Celeste, Blackshaw had picked up the 12-string guitar and begun to explore gradually unfurling, longer-form pieces with suggestions of raga and British liturgical music, a direction he'd follow on Lost...Read more
'21 Guns' salutes fallen Lake County servicemenLake County News, May 25th
He was joined on the song by other musicians who will be familiar to Lake County residents, including Pat Ickes on pedal steel guitar, Dan Prather on 12-string guitar, Don Hoberg on bass guitar and Don Prather on drums. Dan and Don Prather also did ...Read more
12-String CornerAcoustic Guitar Magazine, May 9th
Why is it, that when 12-string guitar is mentioned, most people associate the instrument with Lead Belly? To me, there are far more players who have more skill and vocal range than Lead Belly. I think that the key to his iconic status lies not in his...Read more
12-String Setup SecretsPremier Guitar, February 9th
A handful of musicians have built their careers around the 12-string guitar—Lead Belly, Leo Kottke, and Roger McGuinn come to mind—but for most guitarists, an electric or acoustic 12-string is a specialty instrument to be hauled out when a song needs...Read more